“We were lifelong friends” - Dance teacher talks friendship with Brendan Grace

By Hayden Moore

When legendary stand-up icon Brendan Grace passed away back in July, it shocked the nation as he had been preparing a documentary and variety show with the Forget Me Nots choir in the Olympia in aid of Engaging Dementia.

The date that the show was meant to take place, this Tuesday, September 24, has become a tribute to the late star with many of his friends and fellow entertainers set to take to the stage in one last goodbye.

Brendan Grace and Helen Jordan on Sunday Night at the Olympia compressor

Brendan Grace with Helen Jordan


Helen Jordan, a singer and dancer from Drimnagh and living in Old Bawn, first met Brendan when they were teenagers in the late 1960s and she is preparing to take part in the show next week.

Moving to Old Bawn when it was nothing but fields and grass in 1972, Helen set up the Helen Jordan School of Performing Arts in 1987 out of Tymon Bawn Community Centre – where they have nurtured multiple talents in the singing, dancing and drama fields such as Steve Garrigan from Kodaline and actor Johnny Ward.

Recounting the evening her and Brendan first met, Helen was watching her then boyfriend and now husband, Noel Guthrie perform with showband Sean Dunphy and the Hoedowners in the late 1960s.

“I first met him at one of Noel’s concerts, he was playing with Sean Dunphy and the Hoedowners at the time,” recounted Helen.

“I was in the crowd watching. Brendan was with a band called The Gingermen and I think somebody had pulled out last minute, so he said to them that he would go on and do 20 minutes of stand-up if they wanted to keep the crowd entertained.

“He was only 18 at the time and I think that was the first time he performed like that on stage.

Brendan Grace compressor

Brendan Grace with his wife Eileen

“So, me and Noel went out with him for a meal and a drink afterwards in a place called the Coffee Dock in Ballsbridge, and we just kept in touch after it.

“When I started working with him then over in Greenacre, he would come and pick me up from my home in Drimnagh and drop me home then after nine or 10 days of shows. It was one of those things when people just gel – we got along so well, we were friends for life.”

Right up until the time of his passing, Brendan was filming a documentary with his producer Brian Reddin and was adamant to finish the three-part show in order to raise awareness for Engaging Dementia.

Having known him for 50 years, Helen told The Echo about heading over to see Brendan in the Galway Clinic, where he passed away just two days later.

“I went to see him two days before he died. I heard that he had taken ill and I rang him,” explained Helen.

LIFE Helen Jordan resized compressor

Helen Jordan

“We were lifelong friends; we’ve worked together since we were 19 so I just gave him a ring.

“I didn’t realise at the time how serious it was and he didn’t either, he told me that he was in the Galway Clinic with double pneumonia.

“He said to me: ‘why have I got double pneumonia when everybody else has single pneumonia?’. But as it turned out it was stage four cancer and he never even smoked or anything.

“So I went over to see him, we spoke about his funeral and other things and he told us ‘you’re not getting any fancy food, you’ll be getting coddle’.”

‘Brendan Grace: Thanks for the Memories’ starring the likes of Red Hurley, Dickie Rock, the Gingermen, Sharon Shannon, Starsky and Hutch star David Soul, and Stockton’s Wing to name a few will take place at 7.30pm in The Olympia Theatre on Tuesday, September 24 with tickets costing €23 from their box-office and Ticketmaster.

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